Every autumn, McCloud Nature Park in northwest Hendricks County, Indiana, bursts into brilliant fall colors and turns into a favorite destination for visitors and residents alike. To celebrate the beautiful fall foliage, Hendricks County Parks & Recreation hosts an annual Fall Colors Festival.
The 2022 Fall Colors Festival will take place at McCloud, just outside of North Salem, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22 Since I work for Hendricks County Parks & Recreation, I have a pretty good idea of what you and your family can expect at this festival.
Let's begin with the stars of this festival: the trees. Because of the wide variety of tree species within the park, McCloud's fall foliage is quite spectacular in peak season.
Reds, yellows, and oranges intermingle throughout the 232-acre park, and with over 6 miles of trails to explore, park guests can fully immerse themselves in the autumn splendor.
Of course, I'm quite biased in favor of McCloud Nature Park -- especially during the fall months -- so don't just take my word for how stunning the trees become in October and November.
Visit Indiana regards McCloud Nature Park as one of the best fall foliage spots in the state, and the park has held that distinction for years.
Only In Your State included McCloud in its dreamy road trip to see the best fall foliage across the state.
Most recently, The Points Guy ranked McCloud Nature Park among the top destinations in the world to see beautiful fall foliage without the crowds.
Yes, in the world. Up there with sites in Ireland, England, Croatia, Wales and Japan.
Yeah, this park is kind of a big deal in the fall.
So now that you know why the Fall Colors Festival is so popular, what can you and your family enjoy while you're there? Our park naturalists have lined up a day packed with all sorts of fun, family-friendly activities.
Learn about an ancient hunting weapon called an atlatl and then see how well you can throw darts at a target. Would you have been able to take down a woolly mammoth with an atlatl?
Continue testing your precision by taking your turn hitting targets at the archery station. Under the guidance of trained instructors, people of all ages and skill levels can draw a bow and do their best Robin Hood impression.
Bring some hot dogs, marshmallows and roasting sticks and cook yourself some lunch and dessert over the campfire that our park staff will have crackling all day.
Play some Backyard Bass, make some fish prints and other crafts, and go on a scavenger hunt through our fish-themed McCloud Prairie Maze (more on that in a moment).
Hay Rides, Food & More
No fall festival is complete without a hay ride! For a nominal fee, enjoy a ride along some of the most scenic trails at McCloud Nature Park and see how the leaves are starting to turn colors. Then, in peak season, you'll know which trails will give you a spectacular view of brilliant autumn foliage.
There will also be food trucks on site, as well as information and demonstration booths, along with some local artisans who will have their unique crafts available for purchase.
(Insider tip: make sure to bring some cash for the hay ride, food trucks and vendors because cellular service at McCloud is too spotty for credit card machines to work.)
McCloud Prairie Maze
Our fish-themed McCloud Prairie Maze will be open for the whole family to explore during the festival. Designed and constructed by park staff, the maze is cut into the park's 52-acre prairie, and the correct path results in a hike of about 2/3 of a mile.
Either explore the maze for fun, or try a scavenger hunt during the Fall Colors Festival.
You can find maps to help guide you through the maze at the Nature Center and at the maze entrance. You can also click here to download and print your own map before you head out to McCloud.
(Insider tip: Make sure the whole family is wearing closed-toe shoes that you don't mind getting dirty or muddy inside the maze. The stiff, dried tallgrass stalks don't feel real great when they meet unprotected toes in sandals or flip-flops.)
Admission to McCloud Nature Park, the McCloud Prairie Maze, the festival and almost all of the above activities (aside from hayrides) are free of charge.
Fall Colors Run
Are you a runner or a walker? If so, I have good news for you: after taking a few years off, the Fall Colors Run at McCloud is back in 2022!
Start your day at 8:30 a.m. with a 5K or 10K run/walk along the trails and through the fall foliage of McCloud Nature Park in this professionally-timed event hosted by RaceMaker Productions. Registration is just $20 for the 5K and $30 for the 10K.
For more information, including how to register for the Fall Colors Run, click here.
Once you're done with the Fall Colors Run, the Fall Colors Festival is right there, ready for you to enjoy for the rest of your day!
Fall Colors Run
- Saturday, Oct. 22, 8:30 a.m.
- McCloud Nature Park
- 8518 N. Hughes Road, North Salem, Ind.
- 5K and 10K walk/run
- $20/person (5K); $30/person (10K)